Welcome to the SEO starting guide part 2. If you just find this article, I started the part 1 guide here. My goal for these 2 part articles is to help the people who don’t know SEO but want to learn how SEO works. There is no doubt that there are tons of SEO resources out there. But, I myself struggled to find a guiding framework on how to start learning SEO. Hence I created this guide.
In short, my hope is when you finish reading these 2 articles, your brain can create a structure of SEO and where to go next, like an indexing system.
As a quick reminder, I devise the framework by breaking it down into five components, namely:
- SEO Myths – covered in part 1
- SEO pre-work – covered in part 1
- On-page SEO – this is the practice of optimising webpages to rank higher on search results.
- Off-page SEO – this is the activities you do outside your website to raise the ranking’s search results.
- Technical SEO – this is the technical stuff that you should understand so you can tell the IT guy to do it for you.
Let’s dive in.
This is the activity you do on your web pages to improve your ranking on search results. There are a bunch of terms and activities you need to know.
Meta descriptions are the first thing searchers see on SERP (Search Engine Result Page). A good meta description helps readers understand what your content is about. It also helps search crawlers take information back for an indexing purpose.
It is important to carefully write meta descriptions on every page. There are a few things you need to know when writing meta descriptions.
- Always include a keyword. The keyword will be bolded on SERP.
- Keep it under 160 characters, if not, Google will chop it for you.
- Aim to give an idea to readers of what your content is about. It helps with a click-through-rate (one of the key ranking factors).
Title tags are an HTML element of your site that tells search engines what title to show on SERP. You put title tags between the header tag <head> Your title tag </head>.
If you use WordPress, I strongly recommend installing the Yoast plugin. You can start with a free version. Yoast will add the SEO elements at the bottom of your pages, making it super easy for you to manage title tags (and everything else). Below is what it looks like.
The idea behind the content structure is to make it easy for both readers and search crawlers to get a grasp of how to read your content. You should use a heading structure like below:
- H1 tag – this is your title.
- H2 tag – this is a primary subheading.
- H3 tag – this is a topic under your H2 tag.
It’s essential to include your target keyword in the H1 and relevant H2 headings.
When you have more content on your site, it should create more value for your readers. You should also consider how all of your content connects together. It not only helps search crawlers to index your site quickly but also helps your readers to dig deeper into your content.
When you write an article on your site, you should plan to make a reference to your other relevant articles and link to them.
It’s needless to say, site speed is super important for SEO. It’s an easy concept – faster websites rank higher. You should consider the loading speed for both a desktop and a mobile site version.
Ubersuggest has a site audit function that tells you if your site loading speed is ok or not.
Those factors are things that will help you start with the on-page SEO. If you want to dive right in to get more information, Search Engine Journal has a full-on guide that could help you master this area. Please visit this page.
Off-page SEO is the activity you do outside your website to attract a link building. As you can imagine, the off-page SEO is not under your direct control. Other sites need to create a link back to your page. It’s a powerful way to promote your brand awareness, boost your content engagement, and highlight how relevant your page is on SERP.
The main word that you will hear under the off-page SEO topic is Backlink. The quantity and quality of other websites that link to your page is very important for your site/page ranking.
This is an excellent resource for the off-page SEO strategy.
Technical SEO is something that sounds daunting. There are a lot of technical terms to read and a lot of videos to watch. When I started learning SEO, I was overwhelmed with all of those terms. I once watched a bunch of videos from Google and other SEO experts and asked myself if I should give up.
Not so fast.
If you are a marketing professional, you don’t have to do everything yourself. You have an excuse that technical SEO is the responsibility of IT guys. You can tell your boss to get the IT guys to join the project.
What you have to do though to understand what is required so you can explain and give directions to the IT team. Some technical SEO tasks are doable by non-technical persons, especially if you use CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress.
The gist of technical SEO is about ensuring that search crawlers can read and explore content on your website. That’s it. Not too bad, hey!
Below are the terms and activities that should help you get started quickly. When talking about technical SEO, we often refer to a site audit activity. There are tools that scan your website and produce a report to tell you what needs to be fixed. I suggest you start with SEO Analyzer by Ubersuggest.
HTML Status Codes
These are the codes issued by a server in response to user requests. There are a lot of them. However, you only need to know a few (for now).
- 200 OK – the request has succeeded. This is a standard HTML response for successful HTTP requests.
- 301 Moved Permanently – 301 is used for permanent URL redirection, meaning current links or records using the URL that the response is received for should be updated. The new URL should be provided in the Location field included with the response. The 301 redirect is considered a best practice for upgrading users from HTTP to HTTPS
- 404 Not Found – The requested resource could not be found but may be available in the future. Subsequent requests by the client are permissible.
- 503 Service Unavailable – the server cannot handle the request (because it is overloaded or down for maintenance). Generally, this is a temporary state.
If you want to dig deeper, you can see the whole status code list here.
Robot.txt is a text file that contains instructions to tell site crawlers how to crawl your website. In order to be found, a robots.txt file must be placed in a website’s top-level directory.
I came across robot.txt the first time I developed a website many years ago, but I didn’t want search engines to index this site. My IT partner at the time had to put the below instruction in the file.
User-agent: * Disallow:
This is just one example. There are many things you can put in this file. If you want to know more, please visit this resource from Moz.
We are getting more fun with these SEO terms. One of the important SEO terms is the canonical tag. What is it?
“Sometimes referred to as “rel=canonical,” canonical tags tell search engines that a given URL is the master copy or authoritative source for a piece of content. If there are multiple versions of the same piece of content at different URLs, the canonical tag informs search engines which one is the primary source. The canonical tag appears in the HTML head of your page.” Hubspot
Using a canonical tag is important, especially if you run an e-commerce site with multiple product pages with very similar content. For example, you may sell the same shirt with different colors and have one page for each color. In this case, you want to tell search crawlers to just look at one of the pages and ignore the rest to avoid having duplicate content.
Here is a useful resource from Hubspot about the canonical tag.
Another important thing that you have to pay attention to is URL length. Ultimately, you want to have URLs that are short and easy to understand. A good tip is to shoot for 50-60 characters. You should also use only words, not codes with no meaning, in the URLs.
One last thing, it is a good idea to incorporate 1 or 2 keywords in the URLs.
This is a good resource on how to optimise URLs.
SEO is complicated but is very valuable to learn. The first week could be very discouraging without someone to guide you. That’s why I created this guiding framework to help you get passed the first week. You have to understand that learning and practicing SEO is an on-going process. Once you have a framework in your brain, you can branch out to add more knowledge in different areas.
Thanks for reading until this point, and have fun with SEO.
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